Being 30 and single in India, and a woman on top of that, was practically blasphemy, even just a few years ago. But times have changed, and I’d like to think, for the better – at least in some areas of our society.
We have far more say in what we want to do with our lives – become a willing corporate lackey, quit a stable job to travel the world to experience different cultures and places, expand a home business into a multi-million dollar enterprise, become a leader who millions of women look up to, become a sharp-tongued lawyer in defense of the RTI, or even become a successful homemaker – you name it, and any one of the millions of girls and women in our country are capable of accomplishing it.
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Being a woman in India has changed considerably. We have far more say in who we want to marry – there are plenty of arranged as well as love marriages that take place every day in our country. There are those of us who have come to a compromise with our parents and go for arranged love marriages, where we date our arranged marriage partners before tying the knot.
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We have far more say in how we want to live our lives – personal choice has made great strides in urban India, and we live the way we want to, for the most part. We have live-in relationships, premarital sex, and even indulge in drinking and smoking. It’s our body, our life, it’s our choice. We want to make an informed decision when it comes to our life – and most parents are okay with this. After all, you only get one life to live, and if you don’t live it the way you want to, then what’s the point?
While these are great strides in terms of societal changes, there are still some stigmas that are attached to a woman being 30 and single.
If a woman is career-oriented and doesn’t want to give it up for marriage, she’s labeled empty.
If a woman wants to focus on her job and outshines her male colleagues, she’s called a cutthroat bitch.
If a woman is friends with a male colleague, she’s a slut and is sleeping with her boss to get ahead.
If a woman doesn’t want to get married, she’s a closet homosexual.
If a woman says NO to a man, she’s labeled a tease and her NO is taken as a YES, conveniently disguised as a NO.
If a woman says a man she knows sexually assaulted her, she was asking for it by dressing the way she did.
Let’s call a spade a spade. This is sexism, in its unvarnished avatar. And this needs to change – as soon as possible, if we are to live in a society that claims to respect women above all others. We are a society that worships mothers, sisters, and goddesses day in and day out. So why the double standards when it comes to actually putting it into practice? Why can’t we be respected just because we are actual HUMAN BEINGS, instead of qualifying our very existence in relation to a man? Even when we’re nobody’s sister or daughter or mother? Even when nobody’s watching? Even when nobody’s there to hold them accountable for it?
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Such double standards have been present and will continue to be present, until we teach our kids – boys especially, that they need to respect ALL women – at ALL times, no matter what strata of society the woman belongs to, what her age is, what she’s wearing, who she’s with, or who’s watching. The ingrained and firmly entrenched patriarchal tenets of Indian society, though outwardly show signs of change, remain the same. It’s as though some men – mostly who are in positions of power (of any kind) – are afraid of change and really don’t want to think what would happen if we women did really come into our own without any fetters.
Rapes still occur at an alarming frequency, honor killings occur where usually the woman is hacked to death, sexism still exists in many forms in all kinds of professions, women battle casual chauvinism and sexism on a daily basis, but the thing is, we have realized that we are far greater than the patriarchal tenets that bind Indian society. That we can do ANYTHING we want to, if only we put our mind to. That we hold the power to change our society, however small a change it might be. That we are equal to men, and in no way less than them.
Being a woman is an honor, a privilege. Nobody should be able to take it away from you.
But true change will occur only when men rise up to become true feminist allies – when they fight for equal rights for men and women.
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